25-year old Hans Dunkelbert after 5-hours of surface steaming spotted a destroyerabout 9,800 feet from is submarine, he swung U-716 around and fired a T5 Gnattorpedo at the distant shadow – as it turned out the opening shot of the Battle of the North Cape. The only shot as far as any additional submarine action – he wrotein his diary, “Am being run over by destroyer, because of the rough seas a miss wasonly to be expected. Now the throb of engines and turbines are audible at varyingdistances. The sounds are all fading away to the east.Approximately at the same time a third submarine experienced a neardisaster. The U-636 under the command of Kapitanleutnant Hans Hildebrandt, whohad just had his 33
birthday on Christmas Eve, picked up the Otto Hansen’shoming signal and made ready to turn about when a succession of huge wavesbroke over the conning-tower and filled the U-636 with over 15-tons of ice-coldseawater. His diesel engine sputtered and died and the chlorine gas from hisbattery banks began to accumulate, battling his problem he sent off a message,“Because of the presence of a lot of chlorine gas am only just able to dive. Ambreaking off. Hammerfest!”After restarting the diesel and airing out his boat, he set a course for FdU,Norway’s most forward base. Moored at the base was the 5,000 ton combinedpassenger and cargo ship the
, and a torpedo and supply carrier, theAdmiral Carl Hering, of Hammerfast. His slow and ponderous partly submergedpassage towards U-stutzpunkt Hammerfast he came across the convoy.Hildebrandt sent off a message, “At 1800-192 in AB6496 run over by eightcargo vessels and three escorts. Easterly course, 70 rpm. No contact. Poorlistening conditions. Visibility 800 meters (2,600 feet).” He made his report at 22hours (10 PM) that evening, however being careful he did not repeat his signal,which never reached FdU, Peters in Narvik monitored the situation with increasesanxiety. The
and her five escorts had been sailing for three hours headinginto the building storm and the Arctic darkness, and Peters knew from what littlereports his U-boats had reported that the already difficult situation was gettingworse, with no indication it was going to get any better appealed to his superiors inKiel and Berlin to cancel the attack. Unfortunately Grand Admiral Donitz hadpromised Hitler a victory and would not back off, whereas at midnight the messagefrom the Grand Admiral was short and sweet, “I have confidence in your will to fight.